On The Luteal Side of the Year

I am here to share a little of what is occurring for me right now, and a few themes that emerge whenever this phase of the year comes.

The summer, particularly after midsummer, feels to me like a restless time of conflicting energies. Perhaps triggered by the years I have spent in education, the thought of September approaching often fills me with questions: “Am I ready?” “What will the next chapter bring?” and sometimes the answers to these questions are difficult.

We are now also entering a new Islamic year, and the blessed month of Muharram. The energy is mixed, between the waning of the meteorological year post-midsummer and the rising of a new, spiritual year. What both of these energies bring to me, however, is the need to shed what is no longer good for me, and all the grief that comes along with that.

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Distilling Lemon Balm

It was my first distillation for months, and the most welcome return to heart. The day started early with our journey to Phytology, a magical nature reserve in the heart of urban London. After a reluctant start, as if I were waking up my herbalist bones after a long sleep, I tingled with excitement as I carried my smallest alembic across central London on a clear, cold spring morning.

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On the Sacred Loci of the Henna Souq, Fes.

A Homecoming

The Henna Souq has a determinable atmosphere, defined by the wind in the leaves of its two plane trees and the towering building of the 13th Century Maristan at its heart. Lining the small square are little shops, some of them no bigger than three metre square, of which around half are cosmetic herbalists. There is also the old weighing scales, which are still used today when large quantities of herbs are brought here by merchants. It is the home to Simohammed, a friend to many in the city, who operates one of the shops alongside his brother. Always inviting visitors to sit and drink tea with him, it easily becomes a rest-stop on a day of earnest wanderings up and down the hills of the medina. The chance you get to sit in the presence of the square is often enough to reveal just a hint of its magic. 

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On Andalusian Gardening: The Hidden Link in the Chain of Horticultural History

Did you know, that at Cordoba, in the 9th century, the gardeners of Abd el-Rahman I built the first botanical garden on European soil?

Did you know, that it wasn’t until over 600 years later, that the same was attempted in Christian Europe?

Did you know, that the first tulip came to Europe via Turkey to Spain, 500 years before it was taken to Holland?

What if all the horticultural history of Europe you’ve read, was wrong?

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The Boiling Pot: Spirituality and Herbal Distillation

Distilling with Sherifa

It’s an overcast day in March, occasional clouds drizzling soft trills of rain onto the courtyard.

Optimistically, I set the alembic up in a corner, knowing that unless it pours, we’ll be safe under the cedar beamed edges of the open roof.

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